One Direction DAILY MAIL. Harry: ‘Quite a lot of the girls I get photographed with are just friends and then, according to the papers, I have, like, 7,000 girlfriends’. What distinguishes One Direction (aka 1D) from the boy bands of previous generations. apart, perhaps, from Take That (who actually never broke America, but whose longevity 1D dream of emulating). is the fact that they do not have the usual limited fanbase of fickle prepubescent girls.
Grown women in their 20s, 30s and 40s will blushingly admit to a crush on one or other of the five (usually Harry Styles, who has a reputation for liking ‘cougars’ following his well-publicised affair with TV presenter Caroline Flack when he was 17 and she 32).
Nor have they estranged boys my own 20-year-old son and his university mates might not buy 1D albums, but they nonetheless like and relate to the band, and have even provided me with a list of questions to ask them. I arrive with a box of Hummingbird Bakery sugar-loaded cupcakes. ‘Wow, you are the best, these are wicked,’ says Harry as the boys open the box and distribute the cakes.
Only Louis. who the others say is the ‘most body conscious’. resists, saying politely he will save his till later. While they eat I start my questions, asking if they sometimes worry that each of them has been characterised in a certain way, like the Spice Girls.
‘We joke about it [Zayn’s vanity] – we’ll say, “Zayn, quick, look, there’s a mirror over there you’ve missed”’
Is there a member of One Direction for everyone?
Is Niall, for example, the baby of the band and Harry the lothario?
‘What’s a lothario?’ asks Louis. ‘A womaniser,’ replies Zayn, who once had ambitions to become an English teacher. He pauses for a moment: ‘I think he was a character in a play by Shakespeare or, no wait, maybe he was from something such as Don Quixote.’ When I check later, ashamed of my own lack of knowledge, I discover Zayn is right, but his impressive response is quickly dismissed by the others who are eager to confirm that – never mind Harry’s status as a womaniser – Niall is indeed the baby.
‘There is no doubt Niall is the cute one,’ says Louis. ‘I feel really protective towards Niall,’ adds Liam. ‘Yeah, in the nicest possible way I would much rather see any of us punched than Niall,’ says Louis. ‘If you saw someone go to punch Niall you would just go psycho…’ continues Harry. ‘I’d kill him,’ Liam states unequivocally.
‘I don’t know what it is, but even though he isn’t the youngest, he’s the one we feel almost maternal towards,’ Zayn says. When I agree that, as a mother of a boy about their age, he makes me feel maternal too, there is a brief silence before Harry says, ‘You can take him home if you want,’ prompting a burst of laughter from everyone but Niall.
Unlike most boys their age, the band live in their own flats in the same London block, though Harry – who shared his with Louis – has recently bought a house in North London, and Zayn in Hertfordshire. But their ‘tour bus’, they say, is as ‘disgusting’ as a student residence.
‘When we first got together we went to Wembley to see Take That and we thought, “Yeah that’s what we want to be doing.” Fifteen years from now we want One Direction to be playing a gig together at Wembley’
‘In some ways we are like students in the way we live,’ replies Liam, ‘except that we work harder. Whenever I ring any of my mates at uni – around two in the afternoon because they never wake up before then – and ask what they are doing they usually say “just hanging in halls playing Fifa”.’
The band do play the console game Fifa – Louis and Harry are ‘the dream team’ – and they love typically student television (‘Family Guy, American Dad!, stuff that makes us laugh, and mindless TV like Jeremy Kyle, Banged Up Abroad and Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents’), but they are anxious to stress that there is little time for anything but grafting. ‘I think of it like this: there are a lot of people who get paid a lot for doing not much at all – you know, like socialites who get paid for appearing in reality shows or people who earn like a million pounds a day working a couple of hours buying and selling shares – but what we earn we earn for doing an awful lot. We are constantly working,’ says Liam.
‘There are a lot of people who get paid a lot for doing not much at all – but we are constantly working’ Liam
Although both Louis, from Doncaster, and Zayn, from Bradford, had ambitions to become teachers, forming One Direction two years ago ruled out further education. Cheshire-born Harry was only 16 when he auditioned for The X Factor and happily left school for the opportunity to join 1D. Liam – who reached the judges’ houses stage when he originally auditioned for The X Factor in 2008, but was rejected by Simon for being ‘too young’ – did a course in music technology but, had he not gained his place in the band, was about to start a job making jet parts in a factory near his home in Wolverhampton. Niall has always ‘lived and breathed music’ but admits to a keen interest in politics and dreams of one day meeting Barack Obama.
It’s undeniable that 1D do work harder than most students, but although they might appear to live gilded lives, they remain endearingly unspoilt and typical of their generation – as the responses to my student son’s questions reveal. Do they, for example, ever ‘frape’ each other? (sneaking someone’s mobile and posting a false, often funny or mildly obscene message on Facebook or Twitter). ‘We used to frape all the time but we have to be more careful now,’ says Zayn. ‘But we still do fool around. Once I shaved off Louis’s eyebrows and then Louis shaved off Liam’s and then Harry shaved his initials into the hairs on my leg while I was asleep.’
Zayn believes that one of the reasons they have bonded so strongly and relate to girls so well is that four out of the five of them are ‘the only boys in our family’
The questions reveal that Liam is the most competitive, that Louis is the band ‘slob’ and Zayn is the most organised. They won’t reveal who can best hold their drink and in answer to ‘Do you go on the lash with Simon Cowell?’ they respond with, ‘Oh, that would be so cool!’ So clearly they don’t. They laugh when asked if they ever eat Pot Noodles for breakfast and if they all get their five a day. Who looks in the mirror most? ‘That’s probably going to be me,’ Zayn says nervously. ‘Yeah,’ the others echo in unison. ‘One hundred per cent! We make a joke about it – we’ll say, “Zayn, quick, look, there’s a mirror over there you’ve missed.”’
For all the banter and apparent rivalry they have never had a falling out (although Liam suggests they have one during this interview ‘just so we can say that we have’). Zayn believes that one of the reasons they have bonded so strongly is that four out of the five of them are ‘the only boys in our family – apart from Niall whose brother is seven years older than him anyway’.
The fact that most of them have sisters (Liam has two, Zayn has three, Harry has one, and Louis has four half-sisters) not only explains why they can relate to girls, it also binds them as ‘the brothers we never had’.
They are all proud of their mothers, but it is Harry who has the edge on maternal pride right now as his mother Anne is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Although they all agree that Louis takes the longest to get ready, that Harry, surprisingly, is ‘taking over from Liam as the sensible one’ and they point to Zayn as being ‘most conscious of how his hair looks’.
Today Zayn looks adorable in a wool beanie hat, but at the shoot he sported a ridiculously large, orange-tinted quiff. ‘Zayn’s quiff is almost as tall as Mount Kilimanjaro,’ jokes Harry, whose own hair still flops down over a forehead that has a small spattering of teenage spots. ‘We measured it once and it was eight inches.’
The next question I must ask Harry, of course, regards the ladies. Along with a number of more age-appropriate females ranging from Pixie Geldof, 22, to model Cara Delevingne, 20, Harry has recently been linked with Natalie Imbruglia, 37, and allegedly commented that Carol Vorderman, 51, ‘is the ultimate cougar’. So, how old is too old? ‘Well,’ Harry responds just a little nervously, ‘I used to say the age limit was any woman older than my mum – who is 43 – but..’
I mention that on the internet I have seen a figure that links Harry to 492,000 women. ‘I think that’s a slight exaggeration – it’s just 490,000,’ quips Zayn.
‘I guess I go out in London,’ explains Harry. ‘Quite a lot of the girls I get photographed with are just friends and then, according to the papers, I have, like, 7,000 girlfriends.’ One thing’s for sure, Harry has the charm factor and the sparkle in his eye. At the shoot he claims to remember YOU’s commissioning editor Amy, who met him on The X Factor set two years ago. ‘No you don’t!’ she laughs, brushing him off. ‘I do, I do!’ he claims. Flirting, he says, has always been ‘second nature’ for him – but he won’t reveal if there is anyone – out of 7,000 or 492,000 – who is ‘special’.
Niall doesn’t ‘feel ready for a girlfriend yet’, but Louis has been going out with Manchester University politics student Eleanor Calder, 20, for a year and insists that he has no problem rejecting predatory fans. ‘If you are in a relationship you are in it for a reason, so why would you be interested in the kind of girl fans who pursue you?’
Zayn is ‘very much’ together with Perrie Edwards, 19, of Little Mix, winners of last year’s X Factor. But it is Liam who is dominating the romantic rumours right now following the recent break-up with his girlfriend of two years, dancer Danielle Peazer, and rumours that he has ‘dated’ Leona Lewis – which they have both denied. He is reluctant to talk about his private life. ‘It’s a little bit hard to talk about. A bit tough// Danielle and I have broken up,’ he says, prompting Louis to comment, somewhat enigmatically, ‘To be continued…’
If their relationships with girlfriends come and go over the next few years, their brotherhood, they insist, will go on for ever. They have written five of the songs on their new album and have every intention of moving from boy to man band like their heroes Take That.
‘When we first got together we went to Wembley to see Take That and we thought, “Yeah that’s what we want to be doing.” Fifteen years from now we want One Direction to be playing a gig together at Wembley. The tickets aren’t available yet, but hold on, because one day they will be..’ says Harry.